Odyssey Cruises Founder Michael Higgins
Odyssey Cruises founder and CEO Michael Higgins was just 25 years old when he dreamed up the concept of creating a dinner cruise that would feature upscale dining, service and entertainment while cruising along Chicago’s spectacular skyline. Higgins developed an understanding of the dining boat business while working as a bartender on the Spirit of Chicago dining vessel in the late 1980s where he then developed a passion for the hospitality industry. Envisioning an upscale service offered on a sleek yacht, he penned his business idea on the back of a beverage napkin and ultimately into a business plan that quickly gained the attention of a local entrepreneur who backed the new venture and Odyssey Cruises was born. After construction of the new yacht outside New Orleans and an interesting 30-day journey through the St. Lawrence Seaway, the newly constructed and sleek 175-foot Odyssey I and was christened in May, 1991 at Navy Pier.
Odyssey Cruises quickly launched into a successful operation and never looked back. By the end of the inaugural season in 1991, it was determined that a larger Odyssey vessel would be needed to keep pace with the increased passenger demand as Navy Pier began a series of large scale renovations.
The larger 200-ft. Odyssey II was constructed and arrived at Navy Pier in early 1993. Today, 20 years after Odyssey I first arrived in Chicago, Odyssey Cruises has grown into the nation’s largest dining boat company with 24 vessels in seven major U.S. cities and serving well over one million passengers annually.
A Chicagoland native, Higgins has always kept his roots local. “Chicago is a great city, so after graduating from DePaul University, I naturally planned on building my career here. What I didn’t plan on is beginning a career in the dining boat business! I’m blessed to be involved in such a great business, combining hospitality, dining and the marine industries into a unique entertainment experience. Chicago is a world-class city with a stunning lakefront and skyline, and my career has been built around providing our passengers with a unique venue to celebrate special occasions of all types and sizes.”
Docked at Chicago’s Navy Pier, more than two million passengers have enjoyed all the amenities that Odyssey Chicago has to offer, including live entertainment, plated dining, gracious service and amazing skyline views. Along with brunch, lunch, dinner and moonlight cruises, Odyssey’s Fireworks Dinner Cruises continue to be the most sought-after.
Higgins reflects, “Who would have thought a 25 year old bartender with an idea on a napkin would end up with a fleet of 24 vessels 20 years later?” Today, Odyssey Cruises operates under the parent company name of Entertainment Cruises and is still headquartered in Chicago, employing 500 locally and over 1,500 nationally.
– 200 feet long and 55 feet high
– Weighs over 800 tons
– Built in the bayou of Louisiana, approximately 70 miles southwest of New Orleans
– Endured a 30-day delivery through 20-foot seas in the Atlantic, through the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes before arriving to her home in Chicago
– The first ship at Navy Pier to cruise year-round
– Odyssey’s 800-passenger vessel is the largest dining vessel on the Great Lakes
– The first actual restaurant on the water and the only to offer plated dining
– In addition to Navy Pier, Odyssey can board and disembark from many locations including McCormick Place and the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers